Our Value Added

Colors of Connection’s co-founders developed a unique arts-based approach to address two primary gaps in services within the international humanitarian aid and development sector for conflict-affected individuals and communities.

These unmet needs are:

  1. Psychosocial support for people who have been affected by violent conflict on a mass scale
  2. Agency and self-representation for people who have been stripped of these human rights, both through violent conflict, and through post-conflict settings where there is an imbalance of power between international humanitarian actors providing basic services, and the populations who require them.

We are filling these gaps by investing directly in the psychological and social development of individuals and communities with a collaborative bottom-up approach that promotes healing, self-determination, dignity, and civic engagement.

Our approach cuts across multiple disciplines including:

  • peacebuilding
  • mental health
  • gender equality
  • education.

This enables us to align our work with multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mental Health - SDG 3, SDG 4
Mental health is receiving increasing attention in the international aid and development sectors, including post-conflict communities and countries, where there is an increasing recognition of the effect of illnesses such as PTSD, on both an individual and community level, on those who have experienced violent conflict. The SDGs explicitly seek to target mental health-related issues, with SDG 3: Good health and well-being, calling for a need to reduce suicide-related deaths, and SDG 4: Quality Education, urging a focus on psychosocial health. Even so, the number of INGOs that are focusing in this area is limited, and Colors of Connection is working to fill this gap through therapeutic art activities.

CC projects do not target participants with mental illness. However, due to the post-conflict nature of the environments where we work, many participants have experienced trauma of various and sometimes multiple kinds. Our therapeutic activities can help participants process and externalize the trauma, and the social nature of the projects can reduce isolation and encourage solidarity among participants.
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Education - SDG 4
Art education and art therapy have not yet penetrated the majority of humanitarian actors’ approaches to education in conflict-affected areas. However, there is a trend in humanitarian policy that reflects growing interest in addressing psychosocial needs, both through educational and healthcare settings, and shows interest in a more holistic humanitarian vision. For instance, SDG 4: Quality Education, specifically calls to address the psychosocial well-being among children, and various intergovernmental agencies, such as UNHCR and UNICEF, have produced materials and guidelines that support the use of creative activities with refugees, internally displaced persons, and children.

CC’s curriculum and project model of arts-based psychosocial activities, designed specifically for the post-conflict context, is contributing to growth in this sector. We have built a repertoire of activities in art education and art therapy that are adapted to these particular contexts, and take into account particular challenges around illiteracy, cultural and language specificities, trauma, age, and gender.
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Gender Equality - SDG 5
SDG 5 is Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Colors of Connection emphasizes the importance of gender equality through all of our programmatic actions, and our arts-based programming allows for this issue to be explored and portrayed from the local perspective both within the classroom activities with participants, and in the general public through murals that portray gender equality in many different forms. We seek to have equal participation of women and men on our community arts councils, we ensure that girls have equal space for participation and to be heard throughout every process of each project, and we emphasize activities and discussions that encourage thoughtful discussion around the issue of gender equality. Several of our projects to date have created murals the celebrate women and girls and promote their equality in the community as this was seen as a key issue for these communities.

Since 2015, we have begun to incorporate activities into our projects that utilize creativity to support and protect adolescent girls, using a positive and solution-based approach that is focused on building concrete knowledge, skills, and resources. Adolescent girls have been increasingly recognized as an important key sub-group in the fight for gender equality. CC is actively involved in the Adolescent Girl and Creativity Network (AGCN) at the Population Council, and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.
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Peace Building - SDG 16
Peacebuilding processes and activities include disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, establishing security and safety for civilians, fostering dialogue and reconciliation particularly on a political level, facilitating an electoral process, and supporting economic revitalization. SDG 16 aims to reduce all forms of violence as well as abuse and exploitation (particularly of children) and Colors of Connection believes its activities have a part to play in this regard.

Creative activities are not commonly viewed as being essential to peacebuilding, yet the arts are uniquely positioned to nurture certain capacities in individuals and communities that are needed to rebuild communities. For example, cultivating empathy for each other’s suffering.

CC contributes to the process of peacebuilding in the following ways:
> Transforming identities, helping individuals and groups to move from an identity focused on the survival of conflict toward a new identity focused on a more positive future and different reality
> Creating a safe space for individuals and communities
> Instilling a sense of agency and empowerment in communities that are in the process of rebuilding
> A modality of healing from conflict specifically in treating trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder
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Colors of Connection is committed to grounding our work in the most up-to-date and emerging research, while also serving to translate practical knowledge from the field into evidence-based research theories/frameworks through collaboration and partnership with scholars and researchers in academia.